The Supreme Court today said it would hear all 45 petitions together including the one filed by the Centre against a Karnataka High Court order quashing the 2014 government regulation that packets of tobacco products must carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the packaging space.
The bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra and Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud allowed various interim applications, seeking to be made as parties to the main petitions and posted the matters for final hearing on May 8.
“Let all the matters be listed for hearing on May 8,” the bench said.
Attorney General K K Venugopal told the apex court that the Centre has also filed an appeal against the high court order.
The top court court had on January 8 stayed the Karnataka High Court order quashing the 2014 government regulation that packets of tobacco products must carry pictorial warning covering 85 per cent of the packaging space, saying that “health of a citizen has primacy”.
The apex court bench was “unimpressed” with the submissions of the Tobacco Institute of India (TII) that the interim stay would harm the fundamental right to do business of tobacco manufacturers.
The Centre had argued that the high court judgement needed to be stayed and 85 per cent pictorial warning on packaging space of tobacco products be allowed to remain as a large section of the population is not educated.
The high court, on December 15, last year had struck down the 2014 amendment rules that mandated pictorial health warnings to cover 85 per cent of packaging space of tobacco products, holding that they were unconstitutional as they violated fundamental rights like the right to equality and the right to trade.
The Cigarettes and Other Tobacco Products (Packaging and Labelling) Amendment Rules, 2014 (COTPA) had come into effect from April 1, 2016. It came into being based on the recommendations of experts committee, the NGO had said.
The bench was hearing appeals including those filed by NGO ‘Health for Millions Trust’ and Umesh Narain, a senior advocate, against the high court verdict.
The high court had, however, made it clear that the 40 per cent pictorial health warning rule, which existed prior to the amendment rules, would remain in force.
In May last year, the Supreme Court had transferred all petitions against the 85 per cent rule filed in various high courts to the Karnataka High Court and asked it to hear and dispose them of.